Croats-Slovaks at 1-1 in Davis Cup Final

Posted on December 3, 2005

Croatia's opening day against the Slovak Republic went true to form Friday, with Ivan Ljubicic posting a straight-set win over last-minute replacement Karol Kucera, and Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic losing yet another Davis Cup singles to even the tie at 1-1.

Ancic fell 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4 to Slovak No. 1 Dominik "The Dominator" Hrbaty, who sent the underdog homecountry Slovaks into a frenzy with the win.

It was Ancic's fourth loss in five Davis Cup singles appearances this year, with a lone win over Romania's Victor Hanescu.

Ljubicic defeated Kucera, who filled in after Karol Beck withdrew due to a knee injury, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in under two hours.

"I was very, very careful out there," Ljubicic said. "Kucera was once No. 6 in the world and knows how to play at a very high level."

The bald-pated Croat delivered 10 aces, including two on second serves, to no doubles faults over the three sets, and on defense hit out on the weak Kucera serve, winning almost half of the Slovak's first serve points.

"I gave it everything I could but he gave me no chance with his service. I only got one break point in the whole match," said the 31-year-old Kucera who is expected to announce his retirement after the tie.

If form holds, the undefeated tandem of Ancic-Ljubicic will prevail on Saturday against Slovaks Hrbaty/Michal Mertinak, then Ljubicic will be favored to play hero in the first Sunday singles.

"Doubles can be tricky, it will be a very, very important point," said Slovak captain Miloslav Mecir.